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Unlocking the Secret of Great Value Choices Off the Beaten Track

See how the wine world is changing with white wine from a region “undiscovered” only a few years ago and pinot noir but not from Europe or New Zealand.

One of the joys of the modern wine world is how quickly things can change.

Time was when any quest for pinot noir led inevitably to Burgundy or, latterly, to New Zealand’s South Island.

Indeed, the finest wines from those regions remain at the top of the tree for sensational versions of the variety.

However, other countries (and Romania is one) now produce serviceable – and sometimes excellent – pinots but at affordable prices.

Today I focus on an example from Chile which is not only award winning but, for me, also ticks so many pinot noir boxes.

The other selection is from a region that would have been considered “niche” at best only a few years ago.

Led by especially go-ahead producers, however, Southwest France nowadays brings us outstandingly good wines at great prices.

While Languedoc did something similar, this region is doing so with largely local (rather than international) varieties.

I think you will enjoy both of these latest additions to my featured wines.

In the usual way, hyperlinks and pictures are used where possible to help you locate the bottle in question.

First that Pinot Noir

2022 Extra Special Pinot Noir (Currently £8 – but expected to be £9.25 imminently – at Asda):

A little more money than usual perhaps but I include this Leyda Valley pinot noir because it won silver at the prestigious International Wine Challenge.

Floral and smooth, it has soft cherry, loganberry and red plum flavours partnered by firm acidity and nicely controlled tannin.

Additional components include a smoky savouriness and suggestions of cinnamon, milk chocolate and beetroot.

You may need to be quick to catch it £8 but it is, nevertheless, still a great value option even at a higher price point.

And, then, to Southwest France

2022 Finest Cȏtes de Gascogne (£6.50 – instead of £7.50 until 10 April for Tesco Clubcard holders):

Southwest France’s excellent Plaimont producer triumphs once again with one of that region’s attractively vibrant yet “dialled down” rivals to sauvignon blanc.

Aromatic and nicely rounded, its centre piece is striking greengage, orange and apple flavours.

Those are ably supported by firm lime acidity and a depth containing both grapefruit pith and sherbet elements.  

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20 Responses

  1. Thanks ,Brian.These two top wine recommendations mean that summer and better weather is just round the corner.The Pinot Noir is super soft and silky and I would suggest to sticklers to Sauvignon blanc to give the Gros Manseng/ Colombard Côtes de Gascogne a go, as I don’t think they would be disappointed.

  2. I was in Morrisons and picked-up the Paul Mas Pinot Noir from your last week’s recommendation Brian. Got a little money off but even at its full whack it punched massively above that price-point and easily satisfied an Old World drinker whose life’s ambition has been to find top class Burgundy at a fiver!! Ha! But here is an example of PN well worth consideration for sound, enjoyable drinking.

    Now another Pinot Noir today, from Chile, at Asda, to go with quite a few PN recommendations on MWW these last few months for a very healthy roster including the Zana from Romania, and one from Waitrose that gets a mention in dispatches.

    Maybe a caveat here though. Searching as I do for Burgundy alternatives these last four or five decades may not be what matters most to others. These wines can easily be assessed as stand- alone with qualities in their own right. I bet there are many occasional drinkers out there who don’t ”get” any fixation about the unique, light, translucent, perfumed, Burgundian Pinot regardless the almost most expensive wine in the world comes from Romanée-Conti. A case of ”what’s all the fuss about?”. Fair do’s. One man’s meat and all that.

    But for a no-cost delivery to my door I do think the TWS Spätburgunder, Bio, Ruppertsberg 2022 IS the ultimate affordable Burgundy alternative, the best I’ve drunk in years. I cannot speak more highly of it for it’s typical provenance, if that’s what folks are looking for. It suddenly disappeared from TWS list in the last week. Really hope they will get it back.

    In the meantime so many stand-alone, individual styles of Pinot of different origin. Power to the availability of such lovely wine.

  3. Thanks David. Picture now corrected …. I would like to pretend it was a clever April Fool prank but was actually just a cock up on my part.

  4. As you imply, Paul, it does suggest that two swallows CAN make a summer -provided they are of wine!

  5. I do agree with you that the Wine Society Spätburgunder is indeed a superstar and adds another country to the list of the “affordable pinot noir” sources.

  6. I have been a fan of Côtes de Gascogne whites for some time and they can generally be relied upon for a refreshing citrusy wine with food and on their own. Grapes such as Ugni Blanc, Gros Manseng, Colombard, often with a dash of Sauv Blanc usually hit the spot. There is a a well-known restaurant in Canterbury offering ‘house’ 500cl carafes of red and white and the white which is CdG is very drinkable and great VFM (unlike the red).
    Plaimont appears to produce decent CdG for numerous retailers, for example there has long been a Plaimont CdG in Sainsbury’s. It has always intrigued me as to whether such producers create a bespoke wine for each outlet or just change the label?

  7. Good to hear, Keith, that we are on the same page with that white – and equally pleased to hear of restaurants providing half litre carafes- it always seems a handy size and one used too infrequently.
    As for producers dealing with multiple UK retailers, there is clue in that many supermarket buyers are now called “winemakers”. Most do play a key role in blending different batches to achieve what their particular customers seem to enjoy. For sure, there will be similarities in the results but there should also be important differences too.

  8. Just to mention Sainsbury’s Jean Claude Mas Arrogant Frog Viognier previously recommended by Brian is down from £9.25 to £7.75, a useful discount of £1.50.

  9. Eddie,
    Being a man of modest means, and something of a realist, I have not even been searching for that elusive Burgundy. For my five decades of wine hunting I have tended to skip the classis PNs and found little in the also rans to interest me. How great it is now that the holy grail grape is finding it’s feet, and dedicated handlers, in all sorts of unexpected places. And how great to have yoyu, Brian, hunting them down and pointing them out.

    As I get increasingly tired of the Parker style of heavy weights, it is so timely for this new wave of Pinot Noir to come along.

    1. Rather like you and Eddie (see his comment), I was an “early adopter” of wine in the UK and, hence, could buy some excellent wine at great prices (a presentable claret for 7/6 I recall). We quickly discovered, though, that a convergence, in Burgundy, of geology, climate and decades of winemaking experience provided pinot noir at its pinnacle. Sadly, the rest of the world discovered it too and, as demand exceeded supply, so prices soared beyond the point we were able (or chose) to pay.
      That wine still hits the pinnacle for pinot noir but, as all three of us are now discovering, other countries can reach some of the heights the variety attains and, in any event, offer a great glassful at a modest price. I will certainly raise a goblet to them and long may it continue.

  10. Edwin
    Even as an impecunious realist myself over 5 decades I still preferred to run with the notion, as a personal entertainment, that there was something lurking somewhere along the back lanes of Burgundy that was well made, cheap and fitted the model. Possible discovery has always been the fun to be had searching along the way.

    Those adventures are physically beyond me now but it no longer matters as much in my old age. As we all agree PN alternatives are there in healthy numbers now, led as I said by that amazing Spätburgunder, Bio Ruppertsberg 2022, that when last purchased from TWS a couple of months back was an implausibly cheap £9.95 for what it delivered!

    It doesn’t surprise me that currently it has disappeared from the listings … all bought up. If it will come back, in the shape of a vintage as outstanding as 2002, we can all indulge ourselves again in a taste of Pinot heaven, close as it is to classic Burgundy, for a hopefully affordable price even to those of us of modest means. Cheers!

    1. It says 3+ bottles Brian … not just a 3! I wonder can these be any TTD mixed? Only one red, the TTD Maremma Toscana 2020 left on a double dip I think, £10.50 down to £7.50, hence £5.62. Just opened a bottle for tea tonight with a lamb curry. Super Tuscan, mainly Cabernet, not quite to everyone’s taste I’d suggest. I like it but certainly needs decanting.

  11. Popped into an Asda to pick up the Valle de Leyda Pinot Noir. It was still at £8, but note that it is now the 2023 vintage. Look forward to drinking this, and seeing how it compares to the Villard Le Pinot Pinot Noir Grand Vin Casablanca 2022, at £21 from the Wine Society (rated at 95 points by Tim Atkin, last week). And against Le Manoir du Baron Pinot Noir 2023, Asda at £4.95! A Win-Win Vertical Blind Tasting: If I rate them correctly on price, how clever I am; If I prefer the “lesser” wines, I can buy more cheap wines, and save money!
    With regard to vintage variations, I recently listened to episode 4 of the excellent Podcast – “Drinking Well with Berry Bros. & Rudd”. Mark Pardoe, MW, gives an excellent insight into vintage variations in our new climate warming world, and some interesting, and positive, comments on the future of Burgundy!

  12. Perhaps time to look beyond France,beyond Burgundy and beyond Pinot Noir?May I suggest Spain,Galicia,Ribeira Sacra,Mencia?
    As a starter Guímaro (Rebel in the dialect) made by Pedro Rodriguez.85% Mencia and 15% Caiño,Sousa,Merezao,Brancellao.12.5%.I bought a bottle from Alticco an independent in Wrexham for £16, which actually is good value for the heroic winemaking and limited number of bottles produced.Would give many a PN a good run for the money

  13. Good point Paul. Lighter wines are becoming more popular and the Mencia (Jaen) you suggest is a good illustration. So, too, are versions of Barbera, Frappato and – of course – modern Beaujolais.

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